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MSPWorld 2019: Five things I learned at the conference

Here are several observations from MSPAlliance’s MSPWorld 2019 conference, which wraps up today in Las Vegas.

1. The industry wants to reframe the MSPs-as-target discussion

MSPAlliance leadership is aiming to turn the negative publicity surrounding managed service provider security incidents into an opportunity for proactive MSPs to differentiate themselves from cybersecurity laggards. Watch for more developments here as MSPAlliance works toward an early-warning capability that could help MSP community members keep each other posted on cyberattacks and vulnerabilities within tools such as remote monitoring and management (RMM) software.

2. MSPs aren’t thrilled with integrated tool suites

Major MSP platform vendors, backed by a handful of private equity companies, have been creating integrated tool suites spanning RMM, professional services automation, backup and security. But service provider executives speaking at MSPWorld 2019 aren’t sold on the approach. “We are clearly best of breed,” said Karl Springer, president of Sagiss, an MSP in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. “You show me your product is the best product out there, and we are going to incorporate it into our toolset.” Sagiss uses the core products of ConnectWise and Kaseya.

“We are going to look for the best solution,” noted John Burgess, president of Mainstream Technologies, an MSP based in Little Rock, Ark. He said Mainstream can create custom integrations to make a product work within its toolset.

Robin Chow, president and founder of XBASE Technologies Corp., an MSP based in Toronto, also voiced a preference for best-of-breed products, citing security as a factor among other considerations. He questioned whether vendors fully examine the security of newly acquired tools as they expand their MSP portfolios.

“They buy it, and they want to bolt it on and bring it to market as quickly as possible,” Chow said. “I’m not sure it’s vetted out.”

3. When it comes to pricing, MSPs can have it both ways

‘All you can eat’ has been a popular pricing model among MSPs. But without rigorous scoping, customers can take advantage of the approach — requesting home visits to set up networks, for example. In addition, some customers require more support if they have numerous on-premises applications or dodgy servers that require frequent repairs.

Springer recommends a hybrid model, which his company has been using for several years. In this approach, the MSP charges a flat per-device/per-month fee for proactive services such as monitoring and backup. Other services are billed on a time-and-materials basis. The latter category could include project work or a workstation setup for a new user. Springer said customers purchase blocks of time that they can apply toward services beyond the scope of the monthly subscription fee.

4. Blackouts have some MSPs worried

Some West Coast service providers at MSPWorld 2019 pointed to intentional blackouts in California as a concern, citing the potential for multiple disaster recovery events. The blackouts have been put into effect to reduce fire risk.

5. MSPs continue to be acquisition targets

During a panel discussion on mergers and acquisitions, the audience was asked whether they had received email inquiries regarding selling their companies. Nearly every hand went up. Panelists were in agreement that consolidation will continue and could even accelerate.

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